Review: The Comedy of Errors

By John Nathan, December 8, 2011

Olivier, National Theatre, London SE1

Shakespeare teaches us that it does not much matter how ridiculous a plot is as long as the emotions are true.

You can have identical twins (here played by Lenny Henry and Chris Jarman) who each have identical twin servants (Lucian Msamati and Daniel Poyser), and then concoct a cockamamy story about siblings being separated as children by a great storm, and then unknowingly brought back together as adults in a city where each mistaken encounter causes them, and everyone who meets them, to question their own sanity. And, after all that, you can still make the heart swell with the tenderest of reunions - if you are Shakespeare.

Dominic Cooke's modern-dress, often very funny production gets to that rapturous climax via a startling opening scene in which the above backstory is not only described, but depicted.

Henry is the most natural comic talent here - bewilderment forcing that baritone voice of his to rise to a castrato's pitch.

But the stealer of each scene in which she is present is saucy Claudie Blakley, who mistakes her husband for his twin.

Not that, despite matching suits, Jarman and Henry look anything like each other. It would have made as much sense, and perhaps been more subverting of the silly conceit, if Henry's identical twin had been white.

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Last updated: 11:46am, December 8 2011